VIENNA — Contemporary Russia resembles Germany at the time of Hitler's rise in Germany, with a population increasingly dominated by "the ideology of revanchism," according to a leading Russian specialist on ethnicity. And as a result, fascism is rapidly gaining ground.
Sergei Arutyunov, the head of the sector on the Caucasus at the Institute of Ethnology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, offered that judgment at a meeting in Moscow on October 11 devoted to inter-ethnic relations in Russia in the year since the Kondopoga riots.
One of the more outspoken Russian ethnographers, Arutyunov is not so much reviving Western discussions in the 1990s about the possible emergence of "Weimar Russia" as focusing on the increasingly negative attitudes of that country's ethnic Russians toward other groups and especially toward migrants.
Other participants at the session provided data that appears to support Arutyunov's conclusions. Aleksandr Brod, director of the Moscow Human Rights Bureau, said that in the year since Kondopoga, the problems of inter-ethnic relations in Russia had remained "just as they were" or become even worse.
Since the beginning of 2007, he said, there had been more than 170 cases of inter-ethnic violence, which had led to 51 deaths and 230 major injuries. Most of these crimes, he noted, had occurred in the Russian capital, Moscow oblast, Nizhniy Novgorod oblast and St. Petersburg.
Brod added that the authorities have been unwilling to talk about how to address this problem. The law enforcement organs do not respond to complaints, actions, and the literature of neo-Nazi ideologues. [And prosecutors] either do not want or cannot take up these cases."
And Vladimir Muromel, head of the Moscow Center for Ethnopolitical and Regional Research, agreed. "What has happened" in the year since Kondopoga? he asked. "What has been done for preventing inter-ethnic conflicts? The laws remain the same," as does "the concept paper on nationality policy."
"On the other hand," he noted, "foreigners are being driven out, the quota for [new] arrivals has been reduced twice, and the authorities have begun to speak more carefully about repatriation" even of ethnic Russians lest that become the occasion for new conflicts.
Not surprisingly, the statements of these specialists have not attracted much attention beyond the Internet sites of a few human rights groups. But of course, this lack of coverage itself is part of the problem: the dangerous growth of the sense that the time has come for Russians to take their revenge against members of other groups.
Russia ever more like pre-Nazi Germany